Smashing stereotypes – Dr Lisa Briggs

Following on from our blog about how heritage scientists are smashing stereotypes, we are delighted to introduce you to Dr Lisa Briggs, an underwater archaeologist and archaeological scientist at The British Museum. In this blog, she details her career:

For many years I was an underwater archaeologist working on shipwrecks. Armed with an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Ancient History from the University of Edinburgh, I worked on every project I could, both on land and underwater, but began to specialise in shipwreck sites around the world. When the archaeological excavations I worked on uncovered artefacts of special interest, some were selected to be ‘samples’ destined for the ‘lab.’ The laboratory seemed like a mysterious place where, through spider webs and magic, incredible results and discoveries were achieved that allowed us to learn so much more about the artefacts we had uncovered. After 10 years of wondering what actually happened in these mysterious laboratories, I decided to return to school and have now completed an MPhil in Archaeological Science (Cambridge) and DPhil (PhD) in Archaeological Science (Oxford).  I wish someone had told me earlier how much fun science can be!

My PhD work used DNA and organic residue analysis to study five shipwreck sites in the Mediterranean including finds from the Uluburun, Cape Gelidonya, and Kyrenia shipwrecks. Working on these artefacts was a dream come true. I now work in the Scientific Research Department of the British Museum where I use organic residue analysis to study pottery artefacts from a variety of sites. My favourite thing about my work is being intimately involved in the entire process. My background in archaeology allows me to visit sites and sample in-situ artefacts myself, before exporting these samples to our labs at the British Museum.  This way, I can see exactly how the samples were selected, recovered, handled, stored, and analysed. For example, sunscreen is a common contaminant detected in pottery from archaeological sites in sunny countries because after applying sunscreen archaeologists will sometimes touch the pottery with bare hands when digging it up. When I am allowed to sample artefacts myself I wear powder-free nitrile gloves while digging, sterilise my sampling tools between artefacts, and store the samples in sterilised glass containers while they are awaiting export back to the UK. This way we can eliminate issues of contamination, from the loess to the lab!

My career path may not be the most common one for a heritage scientist, but I think I background in archaeology has allowed me to contextualise the artefacts that I study. In my spare time I enjoy speaking at events that encourage kids, especially girls, to get into STEM subjects by showing them how exciting science can be. At the same time, I advocate for the humanities by showing why archaeology and ancient history are so important for our understanding of what makes us human. Archaeology, I dig it!

Lisa is on Twitter and Instagram as @lisaarchaeology

British Science Week 2022 – Smashing Stereotypes

British Science week are celebrating the diverse people and careers in science and engineering by encouraging STEM employees and researchers to share stories on social media about their day-to day work using #SmashingStereotypes and tagging @ScienceWeekUK. They want to showcase diverse and inspiring teams/individuals in STEM and are choosing some to highlight on their website. You can read those added so far here.

We are encouraging heritage scientists to use this opportunity to share their stories in order to make the field of heritage science more visible. For inspiration, you could read through our collated series of profiles of heritage scientists in training. The profiles highlight the various roles within heritage science and the multitude of way that individuals in the field start out their careers.

We have already had some fantastic examples of #SmashingSteroetyoes shared with us by members. The British Museum is showcasing each day the work of different members of their Scientific Research team. Follow @AntonyPSimpson to find out about roles including Colour Scientist, Underwater Archaeologist and X-ray Imaging Specialist. Some of the tweets are summarised below:

The National Galleries of Scotland has also shared with us a short film celebrating the bravery and dedication of Dr Elsie Inglis (1864 – 1917) who was a physician, surgeon, humanitarian, feminist, and pioneer of medical education for women. You can watch the film here.

If you do share your career stories for British Science Week 2022, please be sure to tag us (@HertSci_UK) and we will share them too.  We hope to help better highlight the wide variety of careers in heritage science and the inspiring ways that heritage scientists are smashing stereotypes.

British Science Week 2022 – Heritage Science in schools

This year, British Science Week has developed activity packs on the theme of ‘Growth’. There are packs for primary schools, secondary schools and communities; all of which include engaging activities that explore all sorts of growth, including buildings, eco-friendly behaviours, animals and even how we can grow plants on Mars! You can access the 2022 resources here, as well as activity packs from previous British Science Weeks.  

Other organisations who have been inspired to create their own educational resources for British Science Week include:

BBC Teach Resources

They have created a web page that hosts their best science, technology, engineering and maths resources for primary and secondary schools all in one place.

STEM Learning

They have created additional resources to support the ‘Growth’ theme, including on plant growth, animal growth and population growth.

Twinkl

Twinkl create educational resources used by teachers, schools and educators across the world. This year, they have developed resources that support another theme of British Science Week 2022- smashing stereotypes! The KS1 and KS2 resources have been designed to help young learners think differently about what is means to be a scientist.  They have also embedded British Science Week learning into their new app which uses Augmented Reality (AR).

STEM at Derby

The University of Derby is hosting STEM subject workshops that will support the British Science Week theme of ‘growth’. They will give students the opportunity to explore facilities, take on STEM challenges and discover career pathways.

Science Discovery Day

University of St Andrews’ annual #ScienceDiscoveryDay will take place online on 19 March. Follow @StAndEngaged as they publish different fun and educational STEM related activities and videos every 15 minutes.

Heritage Science in schools

Our community working group has identified increasing engagement with heritage science at school age as a key outcome for a future skilled and diverse heritage science community. They have been collecting examples of how heritage science is being used in a range of programmes targeted at school-age children. You can read the examples here, some of which include:  

  • The use of 3-D digital documentation of the three Forth Bridges to create a series of teaching packs
  • An activity pack from The National Archives to showcase the heritage science and conservation research happening in their Collection Care department
  • Heritage Science resources created by University of Cambridge Museums to help students develop research skills during A-Levels

Do you know of any other examples? Please let us know at coordinator@heritagescienceforum.org.uk

In the future, we want to map existing resources to the national curriculum and work in partnership with others to fill gaps where heritage science can make a contribution to the curriculum. British Science Week 2022 provides a starting point for our members to help with this. Many schools have been calling for speakers to take part in their events during the week, with the hope of making pupils aware of the variety of careers available in science. 

We would encourage members to think about volunteering to speak at such events in the future. There are many schemes that facilitate collaborations between schools and scientists, including:

A good example of this programme in action can be seen in this lecture recorded in February: STEM lecture for schools – Climate change: putting the dead to work  Jess McCoy (STEM Ambassador and PhD candidate at Northumbria University) gave a talk that explored the link between Palynology and climate change. It was organised by Denbigh School in Milton Keynes.

This initiative is an online, student-led STEM enrichment activity. It connects school students with scientists through energetic real-time text-based chats.

Such schemes provide an excellent opportunity for heritage scientists to make school-age children aware of the role of heritage science in society and the variety of careers available within the sector. This would tie into our strategic objective of creating a future skilled and diverse heritage science community.

You can learn more about British Science Week 2022 here.

British Science Week 2022 – events relevant to Heritage Science

British Science Week 2022 is taking place this year between 11-20 March. It will be a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths with many events and activities taking place across the UK.

Below we have created a list of events that we think might be of interest to our members. In particular, we have rounded up events that align to the five societal challenges that were identified by our research working group to inspire and encourage connections between heritage science research and five issues of importance to society. They are Sustainable development; Climate emergency; Improved wellbeing; Equality and inclusivity; and Digital society. Events include:

Natural Prosperity and the Wellbeing Economy

Tuesday 24 May, 6-7 pm

This lecture from Gresham College will take place online and in person. It will envision a more equitable future where wellbeing and nature-based solutions take the place of growth at any cost.

Low and Zero-Carbon Energy Sources for Sustainable Buildings

Thursday 17 March, 12 -1 pm

This online talk will explore the two main pillars for saving energy in buildings – increasing energy efficiency and using low-zero-carbon energy sources.

Climate Change Adaptation and Green Infrastructure: Back to the Future

Monday 14 March, 12:30 – 1:30 pm

This online lecture, given by Dr Tony Harris from the University of South Wales, will explore how Green Infrastructure can deliver huge benefits to mitigate and adapt to climate change, for quality of life and for environmental benefits including natural flood management solutions.

Makeactive: an exploration of how a multimodal virtual maker space could assist non-sighted designer makers.

Tuesday 15 March, 12:30 – 1:30 pm

This online session from The Open University will explore the barriers for non-sighted and sight impaired practitioners to gaining equal access to digital skills. It will detail how the Makeactive-UK project is working to enable non-sighted and sight impaired users to work alongside their sighted peers to enable collaboration in the virtual world.

There are also events happening that are not directly related to the societal challenges but are still relevant and helpful to heritage scientists. These include:

Science Writing Course

Saturday 23 April, 10 am – 4pm

This online workshop will be particularly helpful to heritage science students and ECRs. It will share practical tips to develop a career in science writing.

British Science Festival 2022

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 September

The British Science Association and De Montfort University will host the Festival across the city of Leicester. Events will shine a light on cutting-edge science, as well as the more practical impacts research and innovation have on people’s daily lives.

Stonehenge Science at the British Museum

18 March

This family activity is inspired by the ground-breaking research in The World of Stonehenge exhibition and will help curious little minds to have a go at looking, listening, investigating, problem solving and creating – just like a museum scientist.

You can find out more information about British Science Week 2022 here.